Published on Saturday, 03 January 2015
It is no longer news that residents of some parts of Makurdi metropolis, the Benue State capital, now leave in perpetual fear of falling victim to the nefarious activities of cult groups. What is however, most worrisome is the frequency of the outbreak of violence in neigbourhoods that are prone to the dastardly attacks by these ‘bad boys.’
Residents of areas like Wadata, North Bank and Modern Market, say they hardly enjoy a week of peaceful sleep without sounds of gunshots renting the air or being awakened by shrill cries of victims in dire need of help.
Sadly, the victims are sometimes killed while the fortunate ones are usually whisked away to undisclosed hospitals for treatment, leaving the police with a huge task of trying to deal with the disturbing situation. And so in their bid to ensure a hitch-free Yuletide, the state police command arrested five suspects in various locations in the metropolis during the celebrations.
Spokesman of the command, DSP John Bako, said the suspects were apprehended during inter-gang clashes in the Wadata and Modern Market areas. He said though no live was lost in that particular incident due to the quick intervention of the police, some people however, sustained varied degrees of gunshot wounds.
He also said three locally made pistols and cartridges were recovered from the suspected cultists who terrorised residents of the vicinities.
A resident of Ikeja Street in Wadata, Sule Illyasu, told Weekly Trust that the area is notorious for cult activities despite efforts by security operatives to rid it of questionable characters. He explained that the peace of the neigbourhood is often shattered whenever rival cult groups disagree among themselves as the rent the air with sporadic gunshot sounds causing people to scamper for safety in different directions.
“However, they don’t attack innocent people except those standing in their way unknowingly. They are known to trace people who have links with them in one way or the other,” Illyasu narrated.
But an Igbo trader in the area, who declined to give his name for fear of his safety, explained that the cult members sometimes operate like armed robbers when they are in dire need of funds.
“I have had at least three encounters with them. They walked up to me in the shop, asked for a particular amount of money or favour and if I dared to turn down such a request, they would remind me of the consequences,” the trader said.
However, the commissioner of police, Mr. Hyacinth Dagala, maintains that the police along with other security agencies would deal decisively with criminal elements and chase them away from the state.
Dagala has paraded several cultists among robbers in all his monthly press briefings since assumption of office last August with most of them confessing to journalists to have committed the crime.
In November, a police patrol team while on township patrol along Modern Market road, had an encounter with some cultists who were alleged to have first opened fire on the security personnel and then tried to escape, but the police gave them a hot chase and apprehended two of them. Two locally made pistols with two rounds of 99 mm live ammunition as well as one expended cartridge were recovered from the suspects.
Only last week, the police had to deal with a chaotic scene in the Ikeja Street in Wadata after the arrest of some suspected cultists around Modern Market, part of a 20-man gang involved sporadic threw the neighbourhood into a state of panic.
Similarly, the police under Dagala’s watch trailed and arrested six suspected members of two rival cult groups for their complicity which led to the death of one Agada Godwin just as six others – Ukaldu Kalu, Mohammed Yusuf, Echifu Owiocho, Joseph Angba, Tesurgh Targhagh and Sunday Terngu – remain on the police’s wanted list.
The commissioner of police explained that the suspects at large, who are members of rival cults – Black Axe and Red Skin – attacked and inflicted severe injuries on one Agada Godwin, aged 17, with assorted weapons leaving the victim unconscious.
He added that the police mobilised to the scene at No. 20 Iorkyaa Ako Street, High level, Makurdi, and took the victim to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) where he eventually died as a result of the wounds sustained during the fracas.
Meanwhile, many residents think that cult activities have thrived in the state capital despite the clampdown suspected cultists by security operatives basically because of the presence of the two universities and a polytechnic in Makurdi town.
Weekly Trust gathered that most of the young people who belong to the various cult groups are undergraduates of one of the three higher institutions and among them are also secondary schools students as well as young school leavers.